Angst, torment and stupid decisions dominate Arrow in an episode that tips the scale into The Vampire Diaries territory.
Let’s bitch it out…
Okay, so straight up confession: I did not like this episode. Arrow has had a problematic third season for a number of reasons, but the most damning issue it faces is how unlikeable Oliver (Stephen Amell) is when he becomes a bossy bitch. So an entire episode of Ollie being a dick, alongside everyone else being stupid and/or annoying is a flat-out fail.
Let’s start with Oliver. After a brief sparring match with Malcolm (John Barrowman) and Thea (Willa Holland), Oliver doubles down on Malcolm as their best bet for surviving an inevitable attack by the League…despite refusing to actually listen to anything Malcolm has to say. This hypocrisy sets the precedent for the rest of the episode: everyone is acting in their own best interests but they’re under the delusion that they’re doing things for others. Oliver has been the king of this particular move since his return from the dead and frankly his “I know what’s best”, holier than thou attitude is getting seriously tired. At least Diggle (David Ramsey) calls him out on his BS, refusing to let Oliver get away with the suggestion that the mission to Nanda Parbat is about Thea (I literally cringed when Oliver suggested it was to “save Thea’s soul” – barf).
Things aren’t much better in other story lines. Laurel (Katie Cassidy) makes a weak, half-hearted attempt at taking out Malcolm in what can only be described as a “bitch puh-leese” moment. When her attack goes predictably bad, she spends the rest of the episode torturing herself by calling her father (an unseen Paul Blackthorne) and lamenting her inability to remember Sara’s laugh. It should be emotional, but it comes off overplayed. Nice try, show, but we’re just coming around to Laurel picking up the Black Canary mantel; there’s still a ways to go before I’m ready for S2 drunken Laurel levels of emotional hand-wringing.
At least this bit isn’t as tone deaf as Thea and Roy’s (Colton Haynes) adventure trying to outdo each other’s grief spiral. It’s no surprise that Thea is unwilling to accept her father and her decision to effectively sell him to the League is actually kind of ballsy. Unfortunately she’s doing it for all of the wrong reasons – something we all immediately understand (hell, even Laurel gets it). Unfortunately for us this realization requires a visit to the family of the cop that Roy killed while under the mirakuru influence to bring Thea some clarity. Only in the world of Arrow is it considered “helping” when you bring someone into your own private pain ritual. Good job, Roy – nothing says “cheer up” like spending a night staking out a single parent and kid at their run down shack of home. Sheer genius! Whether these two are headed for a relationship reunion or the writers are just trying to ensure that everyone on the show is miserable and angsty is unclear, but it sure does make for a sad, mopey hour of television.
That leaves Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) to bring a little sunshine to the proceedings. Since Oliver’s return, things haven’t been quite as rosy for our gal (tech) Friday, and her interactions with both Oliver and Ray Palmer (Brandon Routh) suggest things aren’t going to change. Thankfully the bossy, critical schtick gives way to some hard bodied action when Felicity catches Ray in a moment of epidermal exposure; the resulting euphoria gives him a creative boost to solve the A.T.O.M. suit and offers viewers the first bit of sexy times the show has seen in what feels like forever.
At it’s heart Arrow will always be a dark, brooding series about vengeance and darkness and people eschewing the happy stuff as penance for years of destructive emotional baggage. This episode, however, tips the scales waaay too heavily into emo angst, everything-is-decidedly-not-awesome territory. When the show feels like it should carry a warning for viewers with depression or echoes The CW stablemate The Vampire Diaries, it’s time to steal a page or two from little brother series The Flash and find a better balance of moody and happy.
- The episode’s saving grace = the final moment when we learn that Ra’s(Matt Nable) is not a super villain, but rather a guy who is looking for a successor so that he can retire. That’s a nice change of pace that immediately helps to distinguish Ra’s from all of the other Big Bads (contrast this with last week’s return of Slade Wilson).
- P.S. How strange is it to watch tonight’s episodes of Arrow and Empire and realize that both shows feature powerful father figures who distance their children from the family company/legacy because they are uncomfortable with their sexual orientation? I feel like there isn’t huge overlap in the two shows’ audiences and yet they’re both breaking out the same story line.
- Laurel’s “another piece of Sara dies with Malcolm” reflection is a bit clichéd, but hearing Nyssa (Katrina Law) describe Sara’s apprenticeship with the league and her laughter at Ra’s demonstration makes me yearn for an all-flashback episode about Sara. I miss Caity Lotz…a lot.
- Not gonna lie: I may have expected more from Brandon Routh’s near naked form. Yes, it’s absolutely super petty of me, but I kinda figured the former Superman would have fitter physique.
- In case you didn’t already know it, sex with Felicity totally reinvigorates your creative juices.
- Side bar: those are some super bad green screen effects when Ray flies off. Was all of the money spent on the look of the suit?
- In the flashbacks, Oliver takes Maseo’s (Karl Yune) kid after someone sets a trap for them at the docks and nope…I still don’t care about this. Sorry
- Finally, I know it’s comic lore and all, but Nanda Parbat sounds like a) a tasty Thai dish or b) a rejected character from Kung Fu Panda
- Malcolm (critiquing Ollie’s fight skills): “You spent years preparing to bring a bow and arrow to a swordfight.”
- Felicity (after Laurel inquires about their policy on kidnapping): “Actually Oliver has an entire prison on Lian Yu. I probably shouldn’t have told you that.”
- Felicity (convincing Ray to take it easy): “I’m taking you straight to bed” <makes a face> “Putting you to bed.” Gotta love those Freudian slips.
Your turn: is this episode so angst-filled that you mistook it for The Vampire Diaries? Does everyone need to take a happy pill and/or shut the hell up? Does Oliver finally need to get off his high horse? Are you secretly hoping Nyssa just kills Thea? Will Laurel ever find happiness? And why are we still being subjected to these pointless flashbacks? Sound off below.
Arrow hits pause and returns Wednesday, March 18 at 8pm EST on The CW. Here’s your preview of ‘The Offer’. See you in three weeks!